Saturday, November 27, 2010

Plot Road Blocks

The other night I was cruising along with my NaNoWriMo project. Then I hit a plot road block.

I'd written through my prepared index cards. I knew where I was headed, I just didn't know how I wanted to get there. I was lost, and realized a few kinks needed to be worked out.

There's conflicting advice on how to handle this. Some say we should work straight through it. Write anything, and eventually we'll work our way out of it. Others say we should put on the brakes: take a walk, go for a run, or shut down everything and take a breather.

I followed the latter advice. I didn't want to write gibberish that would have to be slashed and burned later. I stepped away from the keyboard, curled back against a big pillow, and watched a chick flick. It was the perfect fix.

By the following morning I'd already prepared a fresh stack of index cards. With my new road map before me, I was cruising ahead in the right direction.

How do you handle writing speed bumps or road blocks? I'd love to hear your solutions.

photo credits: google images

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Writers Giving Thanks

We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. ~Author Unknown

As Thanksgiving draws near, it's a great time to reflect on what we're thankful for. I'm sure the blogosphere will be 'stuffed' with many fabulous posts about giving thanks, and I'll add this one to the table.

There are constants in my regular life that I'm grateful for -- faith, family, and good health. Here are some things we can be thankful for in our writing lives:
  • Evolving skills. We're not the same writers we were 12 months ago. Published or unpublished, we're constantly learning and growing.
  • Seeking publication in this time of amazing opportunities. The industry is shifting before our eyes, and new avenues for publication are opening up.
  • The blogging community. We all learn from each other, and I love how we're on this wild ride together. Bloggers and Tweeters are so generous with information and inspiration.
In your regular life and/or your writing life (and whether or not you celebrate the American holiday) what are you thankful for this year?

Sorry about the questionable photo. I couldn't resist!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Writers, let's flex some muscle!

Hey Ryan, writers have muscles too.

Here are a few ways writers can flex their writing muscles (in front of a computer, not a mirror):
  • Create a character that's a wee bit unlikable. Getting the reader to care about them isn't an easy task.
  • Play with point of view. First to third? Third to first? Alternating?
  • Consider changing the tense. Past to present, or vice versa. Staying on "tense alert" keeps us on our toes.
  • If we're used to writing a female pov, we can try telling the story from a guy's point of view.
  • Twist our regular genre into a pretzel. Dipping our toes into unfamiliar territory can be daunting, and exciting.
With my current manuscript, I'm definitely stretching my writing muscles. They say, "Nothing is wasted," and I believe that. This project is giving my skills a good workout.
Can you share any tips on how we can flex our writing muscles?

And feel free to stick around and stare at Ryan Reynolds.

photo credit: Google Images

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Brilliant Character Development

I recently read two novels by John Green: An Abundance of Katherines and Looking for Alaska.

Here's one thing I learned about Green: when it comes to character development, he's brilliant. I mean seriously, he described several characters between the two books and I wasn't even a little bit confused. Each character had quirky habits, unique traits, and endearing vulnerabilities. Green's descriptions were not released in a flood of information. They were drip, drip, dripped as each story unfolded.

In my quest to improve character development, I've stumbled upon these helpful posts:
And if, like me, you're feeling a little un-John Greenish (new word), check out this post and read "How do you deal with writer's block?" It'll make your rough draft seem less horrible. I promise.

Have you read any of John Green's books? And what's your favorite tip for developing characters? Please share!

photo credits: Barnes and Noble

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Repairing A Jalopy

This is not a photo of our actual motorhome. No, this is my dream motorhome.

You see, our motorhome is more like a 32-foot-long jalopy, circa 1988. Having an older motorhome means we've made plenty of fond memories while stuck in oddball towns. The kids and I take in the local scenery as my husband digs through the motor, trying to figure out how to repair it.

The beautiful thing is, he always figures it out (my husband is a mechanical genius...but I digress). Each time he repairs our motorhome he gets to know it a little more. He learns what makes it tick, and what each noise is trying to tell him.

I liken it to reading through an early draft. It might squeak or hiss. It might wobble or thump. But as we read through it each time, we get to know it a little better. We figure out what's wrong, and if we don't know how to fix it, we'll learn. (Click here for Nathan Bransford's Revision Checklist.)

The beauty of a jalopy is this: we can enjoy it over and over again, making repairs along the way. We can polish it until it shines (almost) like my dream motorhome!

How do you feel about the revision process? Do you enjoy getting to know your manuscript better?

photo credit:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More than a four-day weekend

Our family is busy preparing for a camping trip over the coming holiday weekend. I'm guilty of tackling my mundane tasks without focusing on the "why" of this four-day weekend.

As we celebrate Veteran's Day this Thursday, November 11th, it's a good time to remember and appreciate those who volunteer to protect us.

Do you have a friend or family member who's a veteran or who's currently serving? I'd love to hear their story.

In the meantime, if you're feeling patriotic, check out these powerful videos:

"I Just Came Back From A War" by Darryl Worley

Courtesy of Jemi Fraser, a group of Canadian country artists sing "Standing Tall and True"

In the "Always makes me cry" category, Faith Hill sings our national anthem

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What We Hear vs. What's Said

Is it just me, or is it sometimes difficult to really hear what others are saying?

A critique partner might say, "I like your beginning, but this scene isn't believable."

We hear, "Your writing stinks. I had to hold my nose while reading your manuscript."

Another reader might say, "Your characters are likable, but I think you need to flesh them out a little more."

We hear, "You are SO not a writer. A real writer would have nailed the characters in draft one."

A writer friend might say, "Good luck with your revisions."

We hear, "Yeah, good luck with that pile of scrap paper."

When our writer friends sandwich the good comments around the not-so-good, it's easy to focus only on the parts that don't work. It would help if we also remember to appreciate what we did right.

No manuscript is perfect on the first draft, but I have to believe that most are loaded with nuggets of good stuff. We just have to sort it all out.

How about you? Do you tend to focus on the negative comments instead of the positive?

photo credit: flickr

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Strong Foundations

Foundation: A body or ground on which other parts rest or are overlaid

Whether we're building a home or a novel, if we stack upon a weak foundation, the product will suffer. What makes a strong story foundation? Here's what I've learned:
  • Start with a three act structure
  • Create strong characters who readers will care about
  • Envision a setting that is rich with sensory details
  • In the early stages of Act 1, preferably on the first page, the main character should experience a disturbance to their regular life
  • The transition from Act 1 to Act 2 happens when the MC is thrust into the middle of the story
  • The middle of the story, Act 2, is a series of complications for the MC (I like to create a "make 'em suffer" list for this section)
  • The transition from Act 2 to Act 3 happens when the MC reaches a point of no return
  • Act 3 is the climax and denouement (add a twist!)
  • Revise your story until it's so awesomely amazing that readers will line up around the block to demand a sequel. Well, this one probably doesn't belong, but I like the sound of it.
I realize this is an overly simplified list. What tips can you share for creating a strong story foundation?

photo credit: google images